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Yoga can improve older people’s mental health

This study showed a decrease in depression and anxiety scores and an increase in self-esteem in people who took part in a 60-minute yoga therapy programme given twice a week for 12 weeks. 

Yoga has consistently yielded encouraging results in the treatment of generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder, and has also been shown to improve mood and decrease symptoms of depression. 

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Physical activity has powerful mood-boosting effects and research suggests that it may be just as effective as antidepressants in relieving mental health problems. Yoga is attractive because it is non-pharmacological, has minimal side effects and combines physical activity with relaxation.

Forty women living in an Indian hospice were randomly divided into yoga and control groups. The intervention was a 60-minute yoga therapy programme given twice a week for 12 weeks. The control group continued with the usual activities provided by the hospice.

The yoga protocol was specially designed for older people, keeping in mind their health status and physical limitations. It included simple warm-up and breath-body movement coordination practices, static stretching postures, breathing techniques and relaxation. Scales measuring anxiety, depression and self-esteem were administered to both groups before and after the 12-week study.

Results showed a decrease in depression and anxiety scores and an increase in self-esteem. All participants reported that they felt better and were more energised after the programme.

This may be due to the effects of yoga on enhancing parasympathetic drive while simultaneously reducing sympathetic system activity. Participants may also have benefited from the sense that they were doing something for themselves.

Ramanathan M, Bhavanani A, Trakroo M (2017) Effect of a 12-week yoga therapy program on mental health status in elderly women inmates of a hospice. International Journal of Yoga. 10, 1, 24-28. 

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